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Fowler brings anther title to Woodland

Woodland senior Sara Fowler won the Naugatuck Valley League diving title this season to become the fourth Hawk in 11 years to take the crown. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI
Woodland senior Sara Fowler won the Naugatuck Valley League diving title this season to become the fourth Hawk in 11 years to take the crown. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

BEACON FALLS — The number of Woodland divers that have claimed the Naugatuck Valley League crown now stands at four — thanks to senior Sara Fowler.

Fowler, 17, won the championship early this month at Kennedy High School in Waterbury with a score of 341.95 points. With the win, Fowler etched her name in Woodland history alongside alumni Rachel Battis, and Heather and Danya Chucta, and gave Woodland four league diving championships in 11 years.

“The first time I saw my name in the paper with Rachel Battis, Heather and Danya Chucta, it was like ‘Oh my God,’ Fowler said.

Fowler said all three were amazing divers.

“It gave me chills to put my name with them,” she said.

Heading into the season Fowler thought winning the title was a possibility. She made All NVL last season, finished fourth at last year’s meet and 2013 champion Haley Boland and runner-up Danielle Hughes graduated.

“As the season progressed more and I was learning new dives it became more of a possibility,” Fowler said.

Woodland girls swim coach Mike Magas knew Fowler was among the favorites when the season began.

“I knew with her attitude and worth ethic she was definitely going to be one of the favorites this year to win it,” Magas said.

On the day of the championship, Fowler said she was a complete nervous wreck at school. She went home after school to relax and unwind, but once she put her suit on the nerves returned.

At Kennedy High, Fowler went through her pre-meet routine.

“I run through a lot of my dives on deck, which my teammates make fun of me for because I look ridiculous,” Fowler said.

She also took some deep breaths and told herself in her head, “You got this.”

After her eighth dive — divers perform 11 dives at the league meet — the scores were announced and Fowler was in first place by five points.

“At that point, if I had been incredibly nervous it amplified by 10,” she said.

The final scores wouldn’t be announced until the championship was over and the divers had returned to the pool deck in street clothes. After her she was proclaimed the winner, things got a little emotional as Fowler shared a big hug with her diving coach Doug Mariano and her teammates rushed the deck.

“Even though I had been up by the eighth dive I was still in complete shock,” Fowler said.

Coming into high school, diving wasn’t on her radar. Fowler, who was a cheerleader before high school, recalled walking into swim practice as a freshmen and seeing Danya Chucta diving. Magas asked if any freshmen wanted to try diving, Fowler said, and she was definitely interested.

“Yeah, I want to do that,” Fowler recalled thinking.

Fowler said what attracted her to diving and swimming is that while it’s a team sport, it’s also a personal sport.

“Nothing really beats the feeling of getting that new dive — just nailing it. It’s very rewarding,” she said.

Aside from the high school team, Fowler has honed her skills on a club team the past few years. She attributed her success to Coach Mariano, her parents and her teammates — especially fellow divers Lauren Lombardo, Lexie Byczko and Lisa Thrasher.

“We kind of compete with each other, but in a completely friendly sort of way,” she said. “Our success pushes each other to work harder.”

Magas said it takes a resilient personality to be a great diver. There are going to be times, he said, when a diver doesn’t hit the water correctly. Divers need to be able to bounce back from the “hard smacks” and keep working to improve, he said.

“It’s the special athletes that can bounce back from that and know that, ‘Hey if I want to get better these things are going to happen and I’ve got to overcome that and keep going,’” he said.

Fowler has that special trait, Magas said, along with a few others that carried her to a championship.

“I’m ecstatic for her,” Magas said. “It’s really exciting to carry on the (diving) tradition. … She’s got a great personality. She’s a hard worker. It’s very well deserved.”